TRI In The News
PA Boy, 10, Suspended for Using Imaginary Bow and Arrow
From NY Daily News
A fifth-grader in Pennsylvania was suspended from school for using an imaginary bow and arrow.
Johnny Jones, 10, fell prey to South Eastern Middle School’s zero-tolerance weapons policy when he used a No. 2 pencil to engage in a playful back-and-forth with a classmate. His parents are now pressuring the school to remove all traces of the incident from their child’s permanent record.
The incident occurred during the week of Oct. 14. Jones asked his teacher for a pencil and got up from his seat to pick it up from the front of the class. While walking back, another student turned a notebook into an imaginary gun and “fired” at Jones. The child responded by using his hands to draw back the bowstrings of an imaginary bow and “shoot.”
The interaction lasted a few seconds and neither of the boys made a sound, according to the parents’ lawyers at The Rutherford Institute.
“They were just two friends goofing around,” John Whitehead, the institute’s president, told The News.
A female student in the class who saw the exchange immediately told the teacher. The teacher pulled the two boys out of class and lectured them about being disruptive. The teacher sent a referral to principal John Horton, who told mom Beverly Jones that her son’s behavior was a serious offense. He gave both boys a one day in-office suspension.
When she asked why, the principal reportedly told her that her son had made a “threat” in class.
The South Eastern Middle School did not respond to The News’ requests for comment.
The school’s policy prohibits the possession of any “replica” or “look-alike” weapon, according to Whitehead. But since Johnny never produced physical evidence of a weapon, Whitehead said the principal’s actions were an “overreaction.”
“Focus on the majors, not the minors,” Whitehead said. “If a kid intends to bring a real weapon to campus, deal with that.”
The Rutherford Institute sent a letter to district superintendent Rona Kaufmann, asking her to rescind the suspension and wipe Jones’ record clean.
“If it goes on his record as a weapons violation, it will follow him for the rest of his life,” Whitehead said. “In some cases I’ve seen, the kids have trouble getting into college.”
The school has until Dec. 13 to reply before Jones’ parents look into the possibility of filing a legal claim.